Perception often becomes reality. When Variety Group Editor Tim Gray hired ex-LA Times editor Leo Wolinsky last December as the new editor of Daily Variety, it sent a message that Gray may not have intended. Veteran. Old-fashioned. Newspaper man. During these trying times for trade publications, Gray’s oft-repeated goal has been to solidify Variety’s sterling reputation as the trade paper of record. Breaking the news, the mantra goes, is less important than getting it right.
While this approach may make studio advertisers, execs and press reps happy, it’s less admirable than risky. Caution is not a virtue in the 24/7 breaking news world. Now Variety is forcing out Wolinsky, reports the NYT. While behind-the-wall Variety continues to look like yesterday’s news with its print daily and weekly editions, online trades The Wrap, indieWIRE and Deadline are aggressively chasing and breaking news via email alerts and tweets. And Janice Min’s new Hollywood Reporter published its last print daily Friday; its new fat glossy weekly hits newsstands and industry desks on Wednesday. Whether this expensive gamble wins or loses, it will certainly be the talk of the town.
Which is something Variety needs to become real soon—before it’s too late. Word from Variety insiders: Wolinsky was never a good fit. He never made the transition from the glory days of the fatter Los Angeles Times, especially at a time when a contracting newsroom required rolling up your sleeves and doing 20 things at once. Why didn’t Gray just promote the best talent in the newsroom, executive news editor Cynthia Littleton, who Peter Bart had poached from The Hollywood Reporter? I hope for his sake that Gray doesn’t make the same mistake twice.